The Teacher Training Agency believes one-off payments of up to Pounds 5,000 should be paid to good maths and science graduates to entice them into teaching.
It has called for a fundamental pay review as schools face chronic staff shortages in what the agency fears is the beginning of a nationwide trend of under-recruitment. Applications for postgraduate teacher training in secondary maths and science are both down by more than 300 places on last year, falling well below Government targets.
And Anthea Millett, the TTA's chief executive, has told the School Teachers Review Body on pay that it must consider special payments for teachers of shortage subjects, possibly cutting back on automatic increments to fund the deals.
"We do not believe that a general increase in starting salaries for all teachers is the best way of tackling [recruitment and retention]. We believe it would be worth reviewing ways in which one-off payments could be targeted on new teachers with good degrees in maths and science," she said in the TTA's submission to the review body.
Ms Millett said payments would need to be large enough to both compensate for the increased loan debt new graduates would face by staying on for teacher training and to make student life appealing to mature candidates who already had financial commitments.
The TTA suggests payments of between Pounds 3,000 and Pounds 5,000 and said beneficiaries would have to stay in teaching for three to five years.
But it does not expect instant action. It has told the review body it knows changes cannot be implemented during the next pay round but said they could be introduced during the next five years.
Its call for a fundamental review of the pay system comes as the number of resignations is increasing at levels faster than new recruits coming into the profession.
Evidence from the Department for Education and Employment to the review body discloses that recruitment to initial teacher training courses in secondary schools is 11 per cent short of Government targets. The biggest differences come in maths and technology, which were 21 per cent below levels set by ministers for 1994-95 and in science, down 18 per cent, and languages, down 15 per cent.
Difficulties in finding people willing to train as secondary teachers will almost certainly be compounded by rising turnover rates in secondary maths, languages, science and technology.
The TTA, which describes its proposals as "far-sighted", is concerned that the perceived lack of a career strucuture for teachers might be deterring potential candidates.
It has suggested giving schools who are supporting and monitoring newly qualified teachers in their first year a training credit of around Pounds 500 "both as a new recruitment incentive and as an attempt to reduce the current levels of wastage from teaching in the first two years after entry to the profession."
And it has told the review body that there is was a strong case for increasing the financial rewards for those who "provide high standards and quality leadership."